Rise in number of assaults on police officers

Image caption, Assaults on police officers have increased over the past three years

The number of assaults against police officers has increased over the last three years.

The Chairman of the Assembly Justice Committee Lord Morrow MLA received the figures in a written answer from Justice Minister David Ford.

A total of 2912 officers were assaulted in 2007/08, rising to 2940 in 2008/09 and increasing agin to 3289 for 2009/10.

Most of the attacks on police officers resulted in minor injuries.

Lord Morrow said he was "appalled" by the figures.

"What I am most concerned about is the significant increase in this year's figure, and we are only halfway through 2010," he said.

"Of the figures, the bulk are regarded as minor injuries, but these, too, are climbing year after year.

"In relation to serious assaults, there were nine in 2007/08, 12 in 2008/09 and then again a substantial jump to 19 in 2009/2010.

A breakdown of the areas of assaults for 2009/10 showed north Belfast topped the table with 373, followed by south Belfast with 311, then Foyle with 283.

Ballymoney had the lowest number of recorded assaults with 27, then Moyle with 28 and Castlereagh with 30.

Lord Morrow said he has submitted another question to the justice minister to find out how the increase in assaults on police officers was dealt with through the courts.

"Police officers face a difficult task on a daily basis without being assaulted simply for carrying out their jobs," he said.

"They should be shown respect and not faced with the threat of assault, either verbally or physically.

"These figures must be addressed as a matter of urgency, particularly as the rate is increasing, year on year."